Many industries are dealing with shortages and other supply-chain issues, and telecommunications is no exception.
Consumers may be willing to wait a few weeks for a new vehicle, or temporarily make do without certain features that require a back-ordered computer chip. But clients who need a new or expanded telecommunications system generally can’t wait or make do without key features and capabilities.
Add in the new normal of remote workers and hybrid workplaces, and the challenges are clear. The key is to be creative when solving them.
How We Got Here
Telecommunications in general is always racing to keep up with demand: more consumers, more devices, and the need for more bandwidth. When employees transition from the office to remote work, that adds to the demand. With factories closed or reducing output because of COVID-19 and supply chain shortages, meeting that demand becomes even more challenging.
Meanwhile, because of equipment shortages and inflation, equipment prices are skyrocketing. That calls for creative solutions and, often, unconventional thinking.
A Four-Part Strategy
To help clients get the telecommunications capabilities they need, VOIP Networks uses four strategies:
- Stockpile critical components that may be needed in the future (i.e., IP phones, SD-WAN appliances, PoE data switches, analog telephone adapters (ATA), home office power/WiFi adapters, etc.)
- Find substitutes for key components (i.e., softphones vs. physical IP phones, eFax vs. fax machines, etc.)
- Rethink when and where employees work
- Prepare for the unexpected
Here’s how VOIP Networks uses those strategies.
Stockpile critical components
With our industry experience, we know what equipment customers frequently use. We began stockpiling components months ago, starting with equipment that can’t be easily swapped or substituted. This practice had the added benefit of saving clients money: a PoE data switch that may have cost $1,600 a year ago now costs $2,300, if you can find it.
In many cases, one off-the-shelf component can be swapped for another. If a VERSA SD-WAN appliance isn’t readily available, a Meraki SD-WAN appliance will work.
When desk phone units were unavailable, we set up customers with softphones and mobile phone clients. Employees can use their own or company-supplied cell phones to replace physical IP phones and enjoy most, if not all, of the same capabilities.
In many cases, refurbished equipment can be a viable solution that provides the features clients need. Organizations may have to work without certain features that are nice to have—but not critical—in the short term.
Some of those options can save organizations money. The software needed to add office capabilities to a consumer cell phone, for example, costs only a fraction of what a physical IP phone would cost.
The good news is that consumer internet has made a quantum leap in bandwidth. At one time, businesses had to pay for expensive dedicated circuits to support employees. Now, in most areas, consumers have access to an internet provider that offers more than enough bandwidth to support remote workers.
Rethink When And Where Work Is Done
Some organizations are adjusting their remote working setup to mitigate technology shortages. For example, suitable equipment may not be available to support on-premises staff, and remote work can offer a viable alternative. Alternately, the technology to support a remote workforce may be in short supply, but the on-premises capabilities are adequate.
In some cases, on-premises equipment may not be enough to support all workers at the same time, but the organization may be able to continue operating if employees work at different times and stagger their time in the office.
Flexibility has long been a powerful competitive advantage. The current supply-chain crisis further reinforces the need for creativity and resourcefulness.
Prepare For The Unexpected
Most organizations have an overall business continuity plan to keep operating in the face of unforeseen situations and disasters.
A perfect example is VoiceGuard, a technology we developed more than 15 years ago to answer a simple question: What if you couldn’t access your building?
We created a system that, for the first time, could re-route an office call to a personal cell phone. This technology is commonplace now, but at the time, it was new. When a gas leak shut down our building, we were able to continue operating seamlessly.
All organizations should have a telecommunications emergency backup plan in place. Hopefully, they’ll never need it.
VOIP Networks designs, installs, and supports UCaaS telecommunications technology for organizations of all types. We can also help clients mitigate supply chain issues. For more information, or to discuss your communications needs, please contact us.